Introduction to bonding
Obviously, human beings are social animals who have the inclination to socialize in any situation that allows it. Even when people who do not speak the same languages live together, they tend to find ways to connect and bond with one another. The existence of pidgin and creole languages, which emerge in such a situation, attests to this human tendency.
Yet, there are situations in which people could benefit from bonding but may be prevented from doing so for various reasons. In a language classroom, for example, it is important for students to bond and feel free to practice using the target among themselves, thus learning from each other. However, they may be afraid to bond because they are shy and are afraid of making mistakes or because they have not been provided with the opportunity to do so. As a result, their progress in the target language may not be maximized because they have not had the chance to practice it enough or to learn from one another. In turn, this may further limit their potential not just to bond but to have a more significant learning experience. The situation leads to a vicious circle.
It seems intuitive that bonding within a language class is important, but while much has been said about theories of learning and classroom pedagogies, ironically the field is rather silent on the topic of bonding. This is not good news.
People may want to learn a language for a host of reasons, but when it comes to English, it seems a truism that most non-native English users want to learn it for economic purposes or for achieving educational goals; for many of these people, English is a survival tool. In such a situation, it is particularly important that English language teaching (ELT) practitioners facilitate meaningful learning in class, and one of the means by which they can do this is to maximize bonding opportunities for learners.
In order to carry this discussion forward, ELTWO has invited ELT practitioners teaching in five Asian countries — China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore — to share with readers how they help their students bond. In this thematic special issue, these teachers, all long-time educators, share with readers their philosophies, rationales and practices on bonding. The authors were asked to be quite specific in describing what they do, with the idea that this would make it relatively easy for readers to adopt any appropriate methods for their own use.
Many of the contributors share the conviction that bonding can create a class in which ‘no one is a stranger’ and which allows each and every student to ‘learn with and among friends’. The anticipated effects are to enrich the learning experience while maximizing learning. We hope that readers will find this thematic issue on bonding useful.
Brad Blackstone & Jock Wong